–Dan Kelly, Attorney

I have just made the happy discovery that the good folks over at FairWinds Partners, operators of the Domain Name Strategy blog, have another blog called gTLD Strategy. In this post this week, they have hinted that there may be more “.brand” applicants in this round of gTLD applications than many people have been expecting. They point to four entities that have announced plans to register a .brand domain name:  Canon, Hitachi, Star Hub, and the Australian Football League (AFL). Interestingly, though, they suggest that they are aware of many more likely .brand applicants who have not made public announcements.

I’ve previously commented on the likely Balkanization of the entire domain universe here. From a trademark standpoint, even so-called “generic” top-level domains have one root operator or registrar, which means that each TLD can be identified with a single source. This is the essence of a trademark. I think that it is a matter of time before there is competition over the quality of various TLD spaces. Marketing, pricing, and services will eventually become relevant to anyone’s choice about where to set up a virtual shop on the web (and we’ve started seeing it with, for instance, the .co space).

By way of reminder, March 29 is the deadline by which an entity must register with ICANN’s TLD Application System (TAS) so that the entity can apply for a new gTLD by April 12 (two deadlines for two different steps). More information is here. It also bears repeating that this is not like registering for myowndomainname.com with Go Daddy, which anybody with ten minutes and ten bucks can do. The application fee for a gTLD is $185,000, and there are some significant requirements for running a gTLD.  It is not trivial.  (There is a reduced fee program for public-interest applicants that have a financial need.  The reduced price is $47,000.)

The next big date to watch for is May 1, when ICANN plans to reveal all of the applied-for strings in this round.  It will then be time to evaluate whether defensive strategies are warranted.  More on that in May!